Gratitude Leads to Cleaving to G-d and Mitzvot
It is written, “You who cleave to Hashem your G-d, you are all alive today” (Devarim 4:4).
The Sages have asked, “Is it possible for a human being to walk after the Shechinah, for has it not been said: ‘Hashem your G-d is a devouring fire’ [Devarim 4:24]? However [the meaning is] to walk after the attributes of the Holy One, blessed be He. Just as He clothes the naked, as it is written: ‘Hashem G-d made for Adam and for his wife garments of skin and clothed them’ [Bereshith 3:21], so should you clothe the naked. The Holy One, blessed be He, visited the sick, as it is written: ‘Hashem appeared to him by the plains of Mamre’ [ibid. 18:1], so should you visit the sick” (Sotah 14a).
This requires an explanation, for how is it possible to ask a person to attain the same level of compassion that Hashem has towards His creations?
It seems that due to our numerous sins, a person is always in a state of change and flux. Sometimes he prays well and with great concentration, which has an immediate influence on the rest of his activities during the day, such as when he returns home from synagogue in joy. At other times, however, he gets up “on the wrong side of the bed,” and is sad throughout the day, feeling tired despite having slept for the entire night. At that point, he will also start praying without motivation and concentration, looking at his watch every few minutes to see when the service will finally be over. It seems to him like an intolerable burden.
Likewise, in regards to learning Torah, a person’s behavior is also constantly changing. Sometimes he adheres to a fixed learning schedule, and sometimes he has a tendency to ignore it. The same applies to the observance of mitzvot as well, for sometimes he fulfills them with great enthusiasm, appreciating and valuing their importance, yet at other times he pays no attention to them – and worse still, he may even reject them.
We really need to examine this issue in detail. How is it possible for a person – for whom it is as clear as day that there is a Creator of the universe, and that it is proper to serve and revere the Ruler of the world – to change his behavior so often by vacillating from one point of view to another?
We shall attempt to explain. Cleaving to G-d means being devoted to Him and trying to emulate His ways. This is only possible when a person is grateful for all the benefits that he receives from Him. However gratitude towards the Creator of the universe must be sincere, not just expressed superficially. It should be exactly as if a person were sincerely thanking someone who had saved the life of his son. In that case, he would be ready to kiss his feet out of gratitude.
This is how a person should behave when he feels gratitude for the benefits that the Holy One, blessed be He, has granted him and his family at every instant. In that case, there will never be enough time to thank the Creator of the universe, the result being that he will always cleave to G-d and never change.
For example, several times a day we say a polite “hello,” “how are you,” or “goodnight,” to people around us, since they also say the same to us. How much more should we thank, praise and make the Creator our king, the One Who from morning till night grants us innumerable benefits at each instant!
This is what Moshe Rabbeinu told the Children of Israel: “You who cleave to Hashem your G-d, you are all alive today,” meaning that when we constantly thank the Creator for all of His kindnesses, we will automatically merit living before Him constantly, in this world and in the World to Come, and to remain attached to Him.
In fact a man who is grateful to the Creator of the universe – Who dwells in him and helps him each day in all his ways and endeavors – will merit to cleave to Him. This is a very simple concept: A man who thanks Hashem for all of His kindnesses, and who is grateful to Him, will necessarily resemble Him, for he cleaves to His middot [attributes] on his own.
This idea is alluded to in the verse, “You who cleave.” The term hadevekim (“who cleave”) contains the letters forming the words middah and modeh. This means that it is precisely when a person possesses the middah (attribute) of modeh (thanking) the Holy One, blessed be He, that he will merit to constantly cleave to Him. Such a person will always live before Him, as it says: “you are all alive today.” As we have said, it is only in this way that man can acknowledge the benefits of the Creator and thank Him for all His kindnesses, and that he can continuously cleave to Him. In that case, he will automatically stop vacillating, and will constantly remain in the same path. In every situation, be it good or bad, in his heart he will constantly believe in Hashem.